Girl on Fire: A little down home delicacy

[As seen in Creston News Advertiser, January 30, 2014]

The smell of grease and seasoned flour wafted through the air at Elks Lodge on West Montgomery Street. Tables were filling up with couples and families out for dinner. I bartended and served meals and Eric Shawler, Dick Hammond and Monica Fastenow were sitting at the food table, taking money and serving.

“You know you want to try one,” said Eric, Creston Police sergeant and exalted ruler of the Elks.

“No, I really don’t,” I said.

I served beer, pop and water to the many locals sitting at the bar, or in groups around one of the tables scattered throughout the main room. I went to the food table and made sure everyone had something to drink.

While I was serving, Eric, Dick and Monica were, slowly but surely, talking me into trying Rocky Mountain oysters.

I knew what Rocky Mountain oysters were long before the Elks’ nut fry, and certainly didn’t want to eat one then.

But, I did.

Eric, Dick and Monica stood at the food table and watched me chew an “oyster”. Then, I stuck my tongue out to show I finished the whole thing.

While I’m one to try new things, if someone told me I’d be trying Rocky Mountain oysters, I would probably have thought they were crazy. I never in my life thought I would be eating a calf testicle.

It made me think of a time during my study abroad in England in college, when several friends and I traveled to Scotland. Somewhere between Inverness and the Isle of Skye, we stopped at a little cafe and shopped and ate. Two of my friends ordered haggis pizza. I ordered macaroni and cheese.

Traditional haggis is a mixture of sheep heart, liver and lung blended with oatmeal, suet, and other things, then encased in sheep stomach and cooked.

It felt like the same situation: I was avoiding eating something plenty of other Americans would also avoid. But, somehow I got talked into it. I ate the reproductive organ from a calf.

Despite how odd it sounded, it piqued my interest, so I did some research online. Rocky Mountain oysters are named because, according to one online source, they used to be a delicacy, like oysters, to cowboys and ranchers near the Colorado Rockies. It’s a common food served during festivals and fairs, such as ones in Arizona and Idaho.

Rocky Mountain oysters seemed like a down-home meal, like fried chicken and corn, or beef and noodles over mashed potatoes. Many customers who had come to the Elks had plates heaping with the deep-fried meat, coleslaw and baked beans. Elks members donated cake and bars for dessert, and at the end of the fittingly named nut fry, several people took handfuls of the stuff home for lunch or dinner the next day.

I, however, did not. Rocky Mountain oysters were certainly not high on my list of favorite foods.

Even with the mental block about eating an oyster, it did not taste very good anyway. I don’t think I’ll be eating them again.

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